Veljko Paunovic, age 43, has spent his entire life around football, just like his father had done before him. Veljko’s father, Blagoje Paunovic, built a reputable career as a footballer in Serbia, which Veljko aptly found interest as he got older through his father’s encouragement. However, Veljko was never able to see his father play on a professional level because he had retired just two years after he was born.
Blagoje started exceptionally young as a footballer, and at just nine years old he joined the Partizan youth team, which technically wasn’t even allowed, but the head coach saw talent in him. Blagoje’s encouragement and eventually coaching streamlined the process for Veljko, and by 17 years old, he had become a professional footballer just like his dad.
Just like his father and inspiration before him, Veljko started out on the Partizan team in Serbia, first as part of the youth team, then as part of the professional team in 1994. Veljko was known for his versatility and strong attack, which is why he kept to striker and midfielder positions throughout his professional career. Over the span of 17 years that he has played football, Veljko has represented nearly a dozen professional clubs, including Partizan, Marbella, Atletico Madrid, Hannover 96, Getafe, Almeria, and the Philidelphia Union.
By 31 years old, Veljko Paunovic was considering retiring from football for good, and in 2008, he made an announcement that he was done with professional football. He must not have fulfilled all of his desires when he retired because in just a couple of years, he came back to the professional scene to join the Philadelphia Union in the United States. After a season with the Philadelphia Union, Veljko again committed himself to retirement, and he hasn’t played for a professional team since 2012.
The good news is Veljko didn’t need to play professionally to be involved with his favorite sport and pastime, and he took up coaching the same year he retired to manage the Serbia U18 team. From 2012 to 2015, Veljko coached for Serbia U18, Serbia U19, and Serbia U20, until he got a call in 2015 with an offer to take up a head coaching position for the Chicago Fire Soccer Club in the United States.
Veljko’s original contract with the Chicago Fire was for three years as head coach, but they have since extended his contract, and Veljko Paunovic will continue as the club’s head coach for at least another year. Veljko’s leadership and progress with the team was the reason for his extension, bringing the Chicago Fire Soccer Club to the playoffs after being absent for over five years.